Murum Dam Protest Continues With Help of Anti-Dam Activists in Kuching

Anti-dam activists in Kuching are fundraising to provide supplies to those protesting the impoundment of the Murum Dam in Sarawak, Malaysia. The Penan protestors made it clear this weekend that they have no plans of ending the blockade until their demands are met by Sarawak Energy Berhad.
Read more about hydroelectric dams in Sarawak then join the conversation on Facebook

Some of the 300 protestors who have been a thorn in the side of the authorities and dam builders.
Some of the 300 protestors who have been a thorn in the side of the authorities and dam builders.
Photo courtesy of Dominic Xii

KUCHING (Oct 19): Anti-dam activists are raising funds to supply food and medical items for 300 Penan who are engaged in a lengthy blockade at the site of the Murum dam.

The first round of supplies consisting rice, sugar, cooking oil, and medical items, delivered to the Penan group last week are nearly finished, according to a spokesperson of the ad-hoc group consisting a few friends from all over Malaysia.

“We brought in enough food for some 100 people. We didn’t expect the number of people there was actually three times more,” Dominic Xii told

The living conditions of the group – lacking in hygiene and staying in open space with children and adults cramped under loosely built tents – shocked Xii and his band of well-wishers. The Penan relies on a nearby stream for drinking water and washing up.

Xii claimed food items had to be transferred at separate locations before it could reach the group as the police on site prohibited outsiders from getting in.

“They depend on food from people in the village or others living nearby. This is the least we, urban-dwellers, can do to support their cause in protecting their land,” said Xii, who is planning more fund-raising activities.

The blockade started on Sept 17.  It was the third blockade since the construction of Murum and the longest so far.

Protest leader Ngang Buling who was arrested on Oct 3, told they would continue with the blockade until Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) fulfils their demands. 

“They (SEB) had talked to us, but they did not get back to us on our demands,” said Ngang who was released by police a day later and is yet to be charged for alleged trespassing.

He vowed they would not leave until SEB fulfils their demands that have been voiced since 2007.

Make-shift shelters such as this one have been the home of protestors and Penans for the past month.
Make-shift shelters such as this one have been the home of protestors and Penans for the past month.
Photo courtesy of Dominic Xii

These include compensation for their lands, crops, houses and forests among others, totalling RM500,000 per family.

Other demands include 20,000 hectares of land per village, free housing, free water and electricity and royalty from the profits made from the hydroelectric dam.

Instead, the authorities proposed a resettlement action plan which comprises compensation of RM10,000 per family and a monthly allowance of RM800 per family for the first three years after they have been resettled.

Ngang, who is also Peleiran Murum Penan Affairs Committee (Pemupa) chairman, said they have plenty of food in the village but many of them had stopped work and camped at the dam site.

“We thank everyone for the help and support. It is just too many of us and food consumption is high,” he added.

A total of 1,4000 people from six Penan and one Kenyah villages are affected by the 944 MW Murum HEP, which started impoundment on Oct 1. 

The resettlement of families from three villages affected by the RM4 billion dam to the Tegulang Resettlement Area (Tegulang) was completed last week.

This affected 18 families from Long Malim Kenyah and 54 families from Long Malim Penan.

The first batch, involving 89 families from Long Wat, was resettled there on Sept 9 this year.

The remaining four would be resettled in Metalun, which is not ready yet.

SEB had clarified that reservoir filling will take about 14 months, by which time the villagers would have already been relocated.

Murum dam protestors brace for continued stand-off
by Ng Ai Fern | Oct 19, 2013